Motor vehicle marque of General Motors' UK division, or more strictly speaking, the UK part of Opel, which itself is the European trading name of GM. Vauxhall build and sell almost identical models of car to those sold in Europe by Opel, although the names sometimes differ. For example, a Vauxhall Astra is equivalent to an Opel Kadet, although there has been a move recently to consolidate car model names across the whole continent.

Vauxhall's main plants are at Luton, Bedfordshire and Ellesmere Port on Merseyside: the Luton plant is where the company's headquarters are, and is the one where car manufacture takes place. Ellesmere Port is used for component manufacture as well as importing products from Europe.

Vauxhall Motors was founded in England in 1903 and quickly became allied with the German firm Opel which was a few years older. In 1925 the US General Motors company, looking to expand into the European car market, acquired Vauxhall and Opel but allowed them to retain their distinct identities. This was a wise move, as after the Second World War when car ownership started to become much more widespread, it became rapidly apparent that European consumers looked for very different qualities in their cars compared to their north American counterparts. This differentiation became even more noticeable in the 1970s following the oil crises of the early part of that decade.

What this all means is that despite the fact that Vauxhall is owned by GM it doesn't produce much that an American would recognise as any kind of General Motors car. The Vauxhall Cavalier is similar to Chevrolet's car of the same name but there a number of differences, not least in the marketing. A Chevvy Cavalier is officially a "small car" in the US (at least according to Chevrolet's website) whereas the Vauxhall car with the same name and of the same size is a medium-sized "family car" in Britain.

Vauxhall SW8/9 is also an area in London, just south of the River Thames, West of Elephant and Castle, East of Wandsworth and North of Camberwell.

It's main attraction is the Vauxhall Oval, home of Surrey County Cricket Club and the location of England's glorious victory over the West Indies in this summers test series.

Other than this, Vauxhall's major attraction is that it is home to Britain's largest tethered balloon from which you get a good look at the recently attacked MI6 building on the bank of the Thames.

Vauxhall allows easy access to central London via it's underground trains and overground bus routes and provides train links to the south-west of the country.

Other than that, Vauxhall is a bit of a dull area with relatively poor housing and a tendency for congestion and pollution.

I once lived there you know.

Vauxhall Gardens was built in London in 1661. It was a famed center of London night life. Basically, if you are reading a novel set in 1661 - 1850, and the characters go to Vauxhall, they are going on a slightly disreputable drunken midnight picnic in the middle of an anarchic circus.

At first, there were just gardens with covered arcades and walkways, brightly lit at night. Stalls and restaurants served food in the outdoors, and numberless prostitutes roamed the walks. Festive music added to the lively and somewhat squalid scene.

Until 1750, Londoners could only visit Vauxhall conveniently by boat, until the Westminister Bridge was built. You could pick up a boat for a shilling, from Westminister or Whitehall Stairs.

In 1732, Vauxhall Gardens was rebuilt and made a lot classier. There were new buildings, balconies and supper boxes; a Chinese pavilion, orchestra pits, fountains, gravelled walkways, and splendid murals of exotic scenes.

The Grand Walk, thirty feet wide, was lined with tall elm trees, and the South Walk, running in parallel to it, was spanned by several stone arches. Between the Grand and South Walks was an area known as the Grove. On the other side of the Grand Walk was the Hermit's Walk. There were several dimly lit narrow walks with bad reputations. At right angles to these, the Grand Cross Walk hooked everything up.

Masquerades and celebrations were held there frequently.There was a special tower built for shooting off fireworks. Every evening at 9:00, the Cascade was set off: an artificial waterfall whose backdrop was changed every so often. Ballets, trick horse riding, plays, tightrope walking, and dances could be seen in the Rotunda, an auditorium which could hold 2000 people. Balloon ascents were a big attraction. In 1827, a thousand soldiers re-enacted the battle of Waterloo.

In 1859, the Gardens closed.

Samuel Pepys mentioned Vauxhall as "Fox Hall" in his Diary. John Keats wrote a poem called "Sonnet to a Lady Seen For a Few Moments at Vauxhall". Fanny Burney's novel Cecilia has its climactic scene at Vauxhall. And infinite regency romances send their characters there, as well as to Almacks and Hyde Park.

I have C!ed the annoyingly thorough geeklizzard for stealing my thunder. I did not imagine anyone would have noded the Vauxhall Gardens yet. All I can do is add some contemporary descriptions, and give some notes on the name.

There are two possible origins for the name. One is straightforwardly from the name of an early proprietor, Jane Vaux, around 1615. This theory is advanced in a remarkably accurate book on etymology I have, so I view this idea with respect. It however says "in 1615", not making it clear whether that means some sort of pleasure establishment was founded there on that date.

The alternative origin is that Vauxhall and Fox Hall are alterations of Falkes Hall, said to be from Falkes de Breauté, who was lord of the manor there in the time of King John, for whom he was captain of mercenaries. This theory is stated in The Oxford Companion to English Literature and repeated in a footnote to John Evelyn's Fumifugium (which calls it Fox Hall).

In neither case is it clear whether the gardens were named after a suburb or district already called Vauxhall, derived from some other hall there, or whether the gardens came first and the district took on their name. My guess is that the Falkes theory is correct and the modification to Vaux is by chance association with a later holder, Jane Vaux.

Curiously, the name has been borrowed into Russian as the word for 'railway station': vokzál (pronounced vag-ZAL); first citation being as foksal in a St Petersburg newspaper of 1777. It also occurs in Polish as wokzał and wogzał.

There has been a millennium bid to try to create a new sort of pleasure garden at Vauxhall. In a reply to the House of Commons, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Sir Paul Beresford, said "I look forward to seeing those plans. I am intrigued, as an Edwardian historian has given me a description of the pleasure gardens which raises some rather interesting smirks and question marks."

Here are two descriptions of Vauxhall, both from Humphrey Clinker by Tobias Smollett, published in 1771.

I no sooner entered, than I was dazzled and confounded with the variety of beauties that rushed all at once upon my eye. Image to yourself, my dear Letty, a spacious garden, part laid out in delightful walks, bounded with high hedges and trees, and paved with gravel; part exhibiting a wonderful assemblage of the most picturesque and striking objects, pavilions, lodges, groves, grottoes, lawns, temples, and cascades; porticoes, colonades, and rotundos; adorned with pillars, statues, and painting: the whole illuminated with an infinite number of lamps, disposed in different figures of suns, stars, and constellations; the place crowded with the gayest company, ranging through those blissful shades, or supping in different lodges on cold collations, enlivened with mirth, freedom, and good-humour, and animated by an excellent band of musick. Among the vocal performers I had the happiness to hear the celebrated Mrs. -----, whose voice was so loud and so shrill, that it made my head ake through excess of pleasure.
and from a different character a different perspective:
The diversions of the times are not ill suited to the genius of this incongruous monster, called the public. Give it noise, confusion, glare, and glitter; it has no idea of elegance and propriety--. . . Vauxhall is a composition of baubles, overcharged with paltry ornaments, ill conceived, and poorly executed; without any unity of design, or propriety of disposition. It is an unnatural assembly of objects, fantastically illuminated in broken masses; seemingly contrived to dazzle the eyes and divert the imagination of the vulgar--Here a wooden lion, there a stone statue; in one place, a range of things like coffee-house boxes, covered a-top; in another, a parcel of ale-house benches; in a third, a puppet-shew representation of a tin cascade; in a fourth, a gloomy cave of a circular form, like a sepulchral vault half lighted; in a fifth, a scanty slip of grass-plat, that would not afford pasture sufficient for an ass’s colt. The walks, which nature seems to have intended for solitude, shade, and silence, are filled with crowds of noisy people, sucking up the nocturnal rheums of an aguish climate; and through these gay scenes, a few lamps glimmer like so many farthing candles.

When I see a number of well-dressed people, of both sexes, sitting on the covered benches, exposed to the eyes of the mob; and, which is worse, to the cold, raw, night-air, devouring sliced beef, and swilling port, and punch, and cyder, I can’t help compassionating their temerity, while I despise their want of taste and decorum; but, when they course along those damp and gloomy walks, or crowd together upon the wet gravel, without any other cover than the cope of Heaven, listening to a song, which one half of them cannot possibly hear, how can I help supposing they are actually possessed by a spirit, more absurd and pernicious than any thing we meet with in the precincts of Bedlam?

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